Settling In

So, today was my first full day in my new placement. I got my parking pass, I got my staff ID, and I witnessed my first student fight. I already love it.

I’m trying very hard not to be over-enthusiastic (see how well I’m doing?). I mean, I was sabotaged in my last school by being too open and too eager and too honest. I feel very different here, though I’m trying not to get “all jumpy inny” as Kizz put it, because I don’t want to make the same mistakes. Still, I can already tell that I’m in a much better place where I am now, and I can actually FEEL the difference in my body. I’m more relaxed. I’m breathing on a regular basis. I can feel my confidence returning.

I spent today pretty much in observation mode. I followed my CT around (I haven’t thought up a good pseudonym for her yet) and saw all of her classes. She is genuinely pleased to have me with her, and I’m telling you that it’s wonderful for me. I don’t feel at all like an imposition, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow (and the next day…). She loaded me up with the staff handbook, her class rosters and a copy of the bell schedule and took great delight in announcing to her (our) students that she was my teacher TWENTY YEARS ago. I’m pretty sure that impresses the kids, though I’m not sure if it’s a “good” impressed. I don’t mind being thought of as “old”, though. At least, not by high school students.

My job for tonight is to think about the concept of forgiveness so I can lead a discussion in the Advanced Placement Language and Composition class tomorrow morning.

The students are supposed to be reading The Sunflower by Simon Weisenthal (though CT highly suspects they’re not reading at all). The story is that of a particular experience Weisenthal had as a prisoner in a concentration camp. Once, while on a work detail, he was called into the hospital room of a young SS officer who was very close to death. This officer felt the need to confess his atrocities to a Jew so that he could die with a clear conscience, and expected Weisenthall to hear his story and offer him some kind of forgiveness. When the officer finished his confession, Weisenthal left the room without uttering a word.

The incident haunted Weisenthal for decades, so he wrote a book about the experience and the reaction of his friends in the concentration camp at the time. In this book, he continues to wonder if he should have offered the young Nazi absolution, or at the very least a kind word. He submitted his story to noted humanitarians and thinkers for comment, and the book contains responses from the likes of Desmond Tutu and the Dahli Lama, among others with whom I’m less familar. Each writer approaches the question from a different set of moral standards and religous beliefs, and I’m fascinated by all of them.

What I really want to talk to the kids about is the very IDEA of forgiveness. What is it, really? What does it mean to “forgive” someone? Is it something we are even fully capable of? What happens if we withhold our forgiveness? Does our capacity for forgiveness depend upon circumstance? What does it all mean?

I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow. I feel welcomed by my CT, I’m enthusiastic about getting back in front of a classroom, and I’m excited about the work again. I can feel the immediate past getting less and less relevant, and for that I am grateful.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Settling In

  1. Oooooh, what a great discussion topic… and what a great way to get started on the semester for you. I have had many great discussions with my dad about the concept of forgiveness (which he has a harder time with than I do). Enjoy the discussion and congratulations on your first day! Woo hoo!!!

  2. Isn’t it, though? SO complex and so sticky!

    You know, part of the reason I told you all about this is so that you could WEIGH IN ON IT!!! Tell me what you think! I feel the need to lube up my brain in preparation for tomorrow morning.

    Thank you for your congratulations. I’m feeling a lovely glow of well-being. Whether that’s just because I’m NOT where I was before or because the Universe just “clicked” for me, I’m not sure. I don’t really care, though – I’m taking it with much gratitude.

  3. If you can get someone to figure out for me the difference between forgive and forget I’d be grateful.

  4. Well, in order to define the difference between forgiving and forgetting, we need to define forgiveness. THAT’S the sticky part. What does forgiveness mean, really? I’m not sure I know.

    I DO know, however, that most people will tell you, at least in the abstract, that it’s best NOT to forget when forgiving. One of the points Weisenthal makes is that it is VITAL that we not forget. That allows us to be ever vigilant that that which we’ve forgiven doesn’t happen again.

  5. I was afraid of that. It might mean that I’m entirely unable to forgive. Because if I can remember it I can put myself right back in the emotion of that moment. I suppose what I do with that emotion is the crux of the matter but it’s still pretty sticky.

  6. claudia

    I share the concept that “forgiveness is a gift that you give to YOURSELF”.

  7. Oh, now that’s a good way to look at it, Claudia.

  8. claudia

    I know the site SOUNDS hokey,but http://www.celebratelove.com gives a VERY good explaination of this approach, if you’re interested.

  9. claudia

    Oh ya, type “forgiveness” into the google box at the end of the page that comes up

  10. phaedrus169

    My friend’s son was shot by a burglar. When the trial date arrived the man was found guilty and sentencing took place immediately. The judge asked if the victim’s father had anything to say. “Yes, your honor, I wish you to sentence this man to a lifetime as my ‘son’. I want him to take my last name and be my legal heir. I want him to have a lifetime of probation, in a sense. I forgive him this day, and I want you to do so, if you will.”

    That is, in my humble opinion, true forgiveness. You carry on as if it never happened. The forget is within the action of living “as if” you know nothing to be fogiven has occured. Otherwise, you are going to remember. I forgive my ex-wife…yes, I know some things happened, but I choose to forget. My life is much simpler.

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